Donald Trump loved New York. Can he ever come home again?
ALBANY – When then-President Donald Trump announced in 2019 he was switching his residency from New York to Florida, he wrote on Twitter: "I cherish New York, and the people of New York, and always will.”
Now the question is can he ever return home to the city that made his career and return to his gold-plated penthouse in Trump Tower that is a symbol of his legacy in New York?
Allies say probably not: He's no fan of the city, and the feeling appears to be mutual.
His luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach is where he arrived Jan. 20 when he left the White House, and it's probably where he will stay.
"I can tell you after four years, I think he’s far more comfortable in Florida than he is in New York," said Michael Caputo, a Buffalo native and close Trump ally.
"I’m sure he’ll go back and forth, but just like every other New Yorker, he’s much better off elsewhere."
When Trump was running for president in 2016, Trump Tower was his home base for his campaign, and it is still where his embattled Trump Organization is headquartered.
And after he won election, it was the grand bank of elevators inside the 5th Avenue landmark where dignitaries came and left to visit Trump upstairs.
And of course, it is where he made his campaign announcement in 2015, making the unforgettable trip up and down the long escalator to accentuate his grand pronouncement.
But Trump, a Queens native turned Manhattan developer who he parlayed his name and the glitz of the city into an iconic brand and the hit TV show The Apprentice, rarely returned to New York during his presidency.
The chaos that returning to midtown Manhattan would cause both for security and for his own schedule made it difficult to return. When he returned the metro area, it was often at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“I love New York,” Trump told Fox News in 2017, “but going back is very expensive for the country because they close up Fifth Avenue and they close up 56th Street.”
But going to New Jersey: “I have a place there that costs almost nothing because it’s hundreds of acres and security and they don’t have to close up streets.”
If Trump returned to Manhattan now, it would also still require added Secret Service detail, which would be complicated in the heart of the city.
And there's another factor: He's under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and state attorney general for his company's dealings.
"New York has become inhospitable to anyone who has conservative views," Caputo said. "And someone who is the embodiment of conservatism, I would imagine even though it’s his hometown, it’s decidedly uncomfortable."
A New Yorker in Florida
Trump went from being a native son in New York who state leaders hoped might be deferential to his home state in the White House to being despised by Democrats who run New York politics.
He was New York's first president since Franklin Roosevelt.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was hopeful Trump might want to boost the fortunes of New York, but the Republican president and Schumer were at odds throughout his tenure. Trump often clashed with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too.
It meant long-sought projects, like the new Gateway tunnel between New York and New Jersey, languished. Policies, like capping state and local tax deductions known as SALT, also hurt the state.
"Trump was from New York, but didn’t help New York. He encouraged the SALT cap, which hurt New York more than any other state," Schumer told the USA TODAY Network New York.
"He didn’t give any money to Gateway. He kept taking away money from the state, fighting with Cuomo and others. He was almost negative to New York."
Schumer, the Brooklyn native who has known Trump for decades, said he doesn't see Trump making New York his home again.
"I don’t think he would want to, and I think a lot of New Yorkers wouldn’t want him to either," Schumer said.
Trump lost New York state 61% to 38% last November to Democrat Joe Biden, which was a slightly larger margin of victory than Hillary Clinton, also a New Yorker, had in 2016.
And in Manhattan, Trump performed the worst of any county in the state: He lost 87% to 12%.
So the Trump brand, which donned an array of buildings across Manhattan, has dissipated in the city.
Some buildings that contracted to have his name on them for the panache of the Trump brand have taken them down amid protests from residents.
Outside Trump Tower became a regular rallying point for protesters, including painting Black Lives Matter across 5th Avenue in front of the building last summer.
Cuomo said in September that Trump would need an "army" to protect him in Manhattan.
"He is persona non grata in New York City, and I think he knows that, and he'll never come back to New York, because New Yorkers will never forget how gratuitously mean he has been," Cuomo, a fellow Queens native, said.
Last month, the city said it wants to terminate its three contracts with the Trump Organization after the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The contracts include running a carousel and two ice rinks in Central Park.
“The City of New York will not be associated with those unforgivable acts in any shape, way or form, and we are immediately taking steps to terminate all Trump Organization contracts.” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Jan. 13.
But Trump's name is still over the city: whether it is the Trump Palace condos on the Upper East Side or the Trump International Hotel & Tower New York on Columbus Circle
No love in the city for Trump
The disdain for Trump in Manhattan, the place where his celebrity was a regular topic in the gossip columns for decades, has not been lost on him.
As president, Trump regularly tweeted or commented publicly about the state of the city since he left — chiding Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, along the way.
"New York of 2016 doesn’t even resemble the New York of 2021. It completely different," Caputo said.
During an October presidential debate, Trump called the city a "ghost town" and knocked its COVID-19 policies that shuttered businesses and restaurants — many of which Trump would certainly had frequented.
"Take a look at what happened to New York and what’s happened to my wonderful city for so many years," Trump said. "I loved it; it was vibrant. It’s dying. Everyone’s leaving New York."
Changing his residency to Florida in 2019 was seen as a both a financial move and more specifically a political one. Florida is a key swing state that he won in 2016 and 2020.
His family might follow.
His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner bought property in a posh part of southern Florida and might also be looking to expand Bedminister for their family rather than staying in Manhattan, which might be less hospitable to the couple, the New York Times reported.
The days of the Trumps mingling among the socialites of New York City and Trump being swarmed in the streets for his celebrity are over, said Michael Cohen, Trump's once trusted attorney and fixer who has become one of his leading critics.
"He’s not coming back. He’s so despised here in New York that his fragile ego could never handle being out in public and having people screaming at him, cursing at him, yelling at him," Cohen told the USA TODAY Network New York.
"For so many years, he recalls walking down the street, having hundreds of people seeing him, gathering around him, asking for signatures and selfies and so on. That’s what he needs to live."
In Florida, and at Mar-a-Lago, Trump can get the type of feting that he desires, Cohen said. Maybe former First Lady Melania Trump might come back to the Trump Tower penthouse regularly, but probably not the ex-president, he suspected.
And maybe even the Trump Organization leaves New York eventually, Cohen said.
"By being in Palm Beach, especially Mar-a-Lago, everyone that’s there is a sycophant," he said. "Otherwise they would have never become members."
Trump's ties run deep throughout New York
Of course, Trump's ties to New York don't end in the city.
The Trump name adorns apartment buildings and complexes through the Hudson Valley, whether it's the Trump Tower at City Center in White Plains or the Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley in Dutchess County.
Then there's the family's beloved 220-acre estate, Seven Springs, in northern Westchester County.
But the property has come under its own scrutiny: It is part of Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into whether the Trump Organization inflated the property's value to increase his tax savings.
And that's not all for Trump in New York.
There's still a fight over whether New York could take his name off Donald J. Trump State Park, an undevelopable 436-acre site that stretches across Westchester and Putnam counties.
Trump donated the land to the state in a 2006 agreement — which also says the park must bear Trump’s name.
It's something the state said last month it is "evaluating."
Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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